Police have imposed strict “conditions” ahead of planned protests in London this weekend, as officers fear clashes could take place between opposing groups.
Black Lives Matter (BLM) and far-right marches are expected on Saturday and Sunday, with the Democratic Football Lads Alliance calling on supporters to travel to the capital to protect monuments after they were vandalised during previous demonstrations.
Meanwhile, the force urged protesters to reconsider attending entirely, stressing: “We remain in a health pandemic and people are asked not to gather in large groups.”
“We are asking you not to come to London, and let your voices be heard in other ways,” Met Police Commander Bas Javid added in a video plea.
The new conditions rolled out by Met Police apply to BLM and to left and right-wing affiliated groups that “advertised their intention” to demonstrate during the weekend.
Under the rules, the BLM march will need to follow a specially designated route between Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square, where they will be permitted to assemble until 5pm.
Similar regulations applied to right-wing groups require them to assemble in Parliament Square and some parts of Whitehall and enforces the same curfew.
“Based on current information, and in order to keep those people safe who plan to come and protest, we have made the decision to impose conditions on the planned demonstrations tomorrow,” Commander Javid said.
“If you were planning to come to London, I again would urge you to reconsider, but if you are still intent, please familiarise yourself with what the conditions are.
“Policing demonstrations is complex and challenging, not least during a global health crisis,” he added.
“We will continue to police any protests with the aim of keeping people safe and preventing crime and disorder.”
A BLM demonstration took place in central London on Friday evening with leaders of the march urging participants to remain peaceful and not join any anti-racism rallies planned for the weekend.
In a separate message, Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick thanked those who kept protests peaceful last week, but urged people to stay away from mass gatherings for the sake of public health.
She said: “I think people should stay away from these protests. I think it’s clear that we’re in the middle of a public health crisis, so it’s not safe for them, it’s not safe for people around them.
“Secondly, we do have information that people are intent on coming to cause violence and confrontation. Of course, we will do everything we can to prevent violence and disorder.
“I’m very proud of what the officers did last weekend, it’s always complicated policing public disorder, in particular when it becomes violent and we don’t want that to happen again.
“My message to people who I’m sure have very strong feelings about the issues, this weekend please express your voice in a different way and don’t come physically to the streets of London.”
Campaign group Hope Not Hate said it had detected high levels of action, “anger and excitement” among far-right groups within the last week who are largely against the BLM movement, regarding it as communist and Marxist.
The organisation monitors the online activity of hundreds of UK-based groups and around the world, looking at material posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and the forum Telegram.
Joe Mulhall, Hope Not Hate’s head of research, said: “There’s no doubt that right-wing channels we monitor have seen a huge uptick in activity in the last week.
“We are seeing large amounts of content being shared and far-right groups are seeing this as an opportunity.”